Psalm 32: True Dangers of Self-Deception

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Psalm 32

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.
You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
    which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
    or it will not stay near you.

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Neighborhood Trees #4 | Cypress, TX | January 2023

The Arbinger Institute’s excellent book, Leadership and Self-Deception is an eye opener. In every possible way it challenged me to look at others from a totally different perspective. I didn’t always do it, but it did prove helpful when I faced challenges with colleagues in ministry, coworkers and ministry team leaders whom I was leading and supervising. It’s not a dismissive and perfunctory “It’s not you, it’s me” approach to working with others. Rather, it calls us to consider whether I’ve written someone off, put them in a box, or misunderstood them when I don’t see what I want in someone’s performance. I highly recommend the book.

An example comes to mind. Years ago I was working with congregation members to rewrite the constitution of our church. In that process, the main person to write it, was saying things I didn’t agree with, or (I later learned) correctly understand. I commented to another member that Joe [not his real name] “didn’t really get it.” To my horror, I later discovered that the comment was conveyed to Joe. I came to realize that I was the one who didn’t get it. And even though I said as much to him, our relationship was completely severed. We never recovered. I had hurt him too badly. I thought I understood. And perhaps I did have a better handle on things. But I certainly didn’t understand him. I had deceived myself and put him in a box of my making: the wrong box.

David laments the time he refused to acknowledge his sin. He suffered physically in the throes of his silence and refusal to consider his own failures and shortcomings. His bones wasted away, he says. God laid his hands on David. He not only allowed him to suffer, it’s apparent that he caused David to suffer in his resolute unwillingness to confess his sin.

That was an act of God’s love for David. Rather than let David continue to suffer under the delusion of his guiltlessness, God brings David to his knees so that he will confess his sins and find forgiveness. Self deception not only hurts others – putting them in a box of their guilt and failures in which they do not belong – it is self-destructive. Self-deception is self-destructive.

Confession brings freedom, forgiveness, and fullness of life. I wish I had checked more carefully my own biases and assumptions about Joe’s perspective on the constitution rewrite. But an even greater danger lies in any refusal to admit before God our failures and need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. John says that if we say we are without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Apart from him we have no pathway to the Father. Truth is essential to our salvation. The truth is we need God’s forgiveness. We all do. The truth is also God forgives those who confess their sins, and removes them from us as far as the east is from the west. The danger is that we would deceive ourselves into believing we don’t really need it.

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